It’s all too easy to want to lock ourselves inside with the air conditioner on rather than venturing out on a hot summers day. However, if you take note of these tips you can safely still be active and keep up your exercise routine and outdoor physical activities throughout the hot summer days.
1. Hydrate before, during and after you exercise.
Hydrating before exercise is essential, as you are unlikely to drink enough when you are exercising in the heat. Starting out well-hydrated will help minimise and delay the inevitable fluid deficit. Note: you don’t want to drink at a rate greater than you sweat at and it is quite safe to have some fluid loss, you will replace it quite quickly in the coming hours. It is extreme fluid and electrolyte loss that is dangerous.
Keep up the fluid intake during exercise but remember that small and steady wins the race. One big load of fluid near the end of your exercise session e.g. downing your water bottle in one go once you’ve finished, often results in slower absorption and greater loss of fluid into urine.
Your body continues to sweat for some time after you stop exercising, to bring your temperature back to normal range. You therefore need to continue drinking water to balance for this if it has been a big session.
2. Replace weight lost during the session.
Weight loss during exercise is fluid loss, not body fat. You should aim to drink the same amount of fluid (in litres) as you lost in weight (in kgs), and even up to 50% more to allow for continuing fluid loss (sweating) post-exercise if you are going to be backing up with another session within 24 hours. You can weigh yourself after exercise to monitor how you are tracking with this.
If you are exercising at a moderate to lower intensity thirst is generally a good indicator of fluid need so don't over do it with the water replacement. You can also look at the colour of your urine, if it is very dark then up the fluid intake and if coming out like water then back off. You may also consider changing the fluid if you are still thirsty as possibly you need to replace more of the lost electrolytes so your body can actually 'hang on' to the water you are pouring in. It is all about the balance of water and electrolytes.
3. It doesn’t always have to be H2O
What you drink will also vary. Most of the time water is sufficient, however, when it’s very hot, you may like to drink fluid with electrolytes (salts) in it as well. These are minerals that help maintain fluid balance within the body. They are particularly important if you are a high-volume sweater or a salty sweater (someone who loses a lot of electrolytes through their sweat).
You could eat some food that is high in water content and electrolytes such as fruit, vegetables, milk, yoghurt or soup before, during or after exercise. You can also drink fluids that contain electrolytes such as oral rehydration fluids if it is an intense session. For some sports drinks that contain 6-7% sugar and electrolytes (fairly low levels) could be useful, if the session is long and intense (over 90 minutes generally), you need to back up over numerous days and you need energy top ups, but they are not recommended for many people. I believe most of us can obtain our carbohydrate needs from food that also provides other valuable nutrients and don’t need sugary drinks.
If you are a big sweater, oral rehydration fluids might be useful even at shorter sessions during the heat before, during and after to provide a fluid containing electrolytes for more rapid absorption. Everyone will be different, depending on their needs.
Having electrolytes in the drink helps the body retain the fluid more effectively. It can also stimulate thirst to keep you drinking more to aid with hydration during and rehydration after for extreme heat conditions.
4. Vary how much you drink depending on your individual needs.
Some people have high sweat rates and will need to drink twice as much others. One person may lose 700ml per hour and another person 1.5litres per hour. You can get an idea from how much weight you lose in a session by weighing yourself. Drinking around 250ml every 20minutes is a great way to spread the fluid intake out to minimise dehydration and the feeling of heat exhaustion for an intense exercise session in hot conditions. Having fluid during the day and drinking two cups of water a couple of hours before your session is recommended.
5. Take breaks and listen to your body
You will feel more fatigued in the heat, as your body may not be able to produce enough sweat to keep you cool enough. Don’t push yourself if you feel something is wrong. If you experience dizziness, loss of concentration or confusion, stop and seek assistance if the feeling does not pass.
Exercise earlier in the morning or later in the evening, when it’s cooler. Where a hat, stay in the shade and swimming may be something your body prefers in the heat. Remember though you do still sweat in the pool, you just don’t notice it!
Drink water, slip, slop, slap and enjoy keeping active over the summer in the great outdoors!
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Simone likes to share her expert nutrition advice. Read more